“There is a generation of young female artists who love excessive sharing”


Holly Humberstone grew up in a house crumbling in slow motion. The building had profound structural flaws: at night it could be heard moaning and shivering as it was gradually devoured by the earth. In his sometimes creepy and intimate songs, Humberstone communicates that same feeling of closing walls and opening up dark secret spaces. She is keenly aware of the risk this approach poses in a business where you are encouraged to show emotion – but not too much emotion.

“The music industry is 97% male and there’s a lot of pressure on female artists not to be overly emotional,” Humberstone says. “[The message is] that it’s a weakness to be emotional and to show how I feel.

Humberstone (21) speaks on Zoom from his parents’ living room. It’s not, it should be noted, the ruined childhood home she sang about on her single Haunted House (“They say this house is haunted / But all those ghosts I grew up with”). A few months ago, her mother and father finally passed away on their shaky property near Grantham, in the English East Midlands, and moved to North Wales. This is where Humberstone sits folded on a couch, during a stop on their tour promoting their new six-track EP, The Walls Are Way Too Thin ahead of its November 12 release.

“The house is falling apart,” she says of her childhood home. “Basically we got kicked out because it’s too old to live there now. My parents have been trying to move for a long time.

She also moved on – to brighter and better things. Humberstone placed second in the BBC Sound Of 2021 poll, behind Coventry rapper Pa Salieu. And she brought together leading fans in Lewis Capaldi (who took her on tour) and Matty Healy from The 1975, who she collaborated with on the new Please Don’t Leave Yet issue. There were also appearances on Later… With Jools Holland and an American debut talk show, on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.

“Until recently, I had a locking career,” she says. “I think it has benefited me in a way. A lot of people needed music. I relied on music for human connection. And now I find it weird that I can play in America and have people hooking up with songs that are personal to me. “

“There was a time when I felt like I was growing too fast and going through a lot of changes at once.”

There is a persistent and depressing trend in the recording industry to lump female artists together. Still, it’s hard not to fall into this trap lightly with Humberstone. His music has a bruised, left-centric intensity, fueled by loops and wobbly guitars that erupt like scares in a horror movie.

Humberstone’s lyrics are often characterized by laser gaze specificity. It’s an approach that puts her on the same page as her peers like Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish. In the United States, she was even signed to Eilish’s label, Darkroom Records.

“I feel like there’s a little… I don’t know what it is,” she said. “People talk more about their feelings. It has become a trend. But a good trend because it encourages people to express their feelings and to be honest with themselves and with others. There is a generation of young female artists who are all about over-sharing. This is good because we are all going through the same things. No one writes about something particularly unique. All of these things are universal. Anyone can connect and relate.

But if these young singers have been hugely praised, they are also subject to the most cruel trends of social networks. They are tried for the smallest perceived violation. And held accountable for things that have nothing to do with their music, whether it’s their fashion choice or their dancing style.

“I think it’s a social problem,” she said. And that didn’t put her off. “There is something empowering about being able to share so much of myself with people. To be able to connect and put so much of myself there. It’s good that we can all support each other. It’s empowering.

She grew up the daughter of parents NHS doctors, the third youngest of four sisters in a big noisy house a few miles from Grantham (famous birthplace of Margaret Thatcher).

“We were in a very small village, full of old people. We had a rural education. My sisters and I could make as much noise as we wanted. There was never a dull moment. My parents told me ‘we don’t care what happens – use this creative space’. It was a stimulating environment. “

Her mom and dad are big music fans. It was through them that Humberstone discovered one of its lasting influences, Kildare songwriter Damien Rice.

“My sisters and I could make as much noise as we wanted.  There was never a dull moment.  My parents told me

“My sisters and I could make as much noise as we wanted. There was never a dull moment. My parents told me “we don’t care what happens – use this creative space”.

“He was one of my favorite artists. I remember loving his music, although obviously I had no idea what he was talking about. He was talking about fucked up things. There was something about the flow and the subtleties of his voice. It’s like he’s broken a record and not messed around too much. It’s so raw.

Softly spoken and disarming, Humberstone has a slightly worn charisma. This confidence did not come naturally. Moving to London to pursue her career, she turns in on herself. It was a lonely time she remembers in The Walls Are Way Too Thin.

“I’m definitely not a confident person,” she says. “The opposite to be honest. I struggle with self-doubt and a lot of impostor syndrome, of course. There was a time when I felt like I was growing too fast and going through a lot of changes at once. I moved to London and had no friends. And if you don’t have any friends, London is such a busy and chaotic place. I locked myself in, I didn’t want to go out.

Humberstone is treating a mild cold, which will worsen over the next 24 hours and will eventually force him to postpone his first Irish concert. It’s no surprise that she’s under time, given her busy schedule recently. After going through confinement like the rest of us, the relentless pace of the past few months has been slightly disorienting.

“At the beginning of the summer, I started to do festivals. These were my first shows. It was weird. I didn’t know what to expect. For the past year and a half, everything has been on my phone screen. Judging my progress was by stats and stuff. So it’s really weird to see people show up to a concert. It’s weird to see physical people. I went from doing nothing at all to 100% full blast. It’s incredible.”

The Walls Are Way Too Thin releases November 12

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